Last night’s show was a lot of fun. The audience was thoroughly diverse in age and ethnicity and the sense of focus, sharp. The reaction to the tensions and revelations at the end of the play were vocal and surprising. A round of applause for a prop, albeit a vital one to the plot, tells you that you are not performing in front of a British audience. I can’t imagine Hamlet getting a round of applause for the revelation of Yorick’s skull at the National Theatre! A clever, funny and generous crowd at The August Wilson Center. Of course, the thing that thrilled me most was that my favourite music artist, Gregory Porter, had played the same space only a few weeks before. Maybe I’ll get to swap Pittsburgh stories with him one day… My poster at The August Wilson is amusing. They bill me as, ‘The Royal Shakespearean Actor Paterson Joseph’. Please address me as such in future… The Q&A was stimulating as always and I don’t think I’ve could have wished for a better kick off for what is to come. So far on this US leg of the tour, I’ve often been left with the wish that I was staying in each place a little longer. So much to discover. So encouraging to sense the hunger for this unique tale.
Two Pittsburgh stories worth noting: Earlier this week, at the local TV station, KDKA, I was interviewed by the breakfast show hosts, Kristine Sorensen and Jon Burnett. They started with a clip from THE LEFTOVERS. My character in that show, Holy Wayne, gives hugs that takes people’s emotional pain away. Kristine asked for a hug, I duly obliged. Then Jon wanted in on the action and I stepped up. It was odd, but not unpleasant. But that was just the beginning of the bizarre and hysterical morning. The weather guy, an African-American dude, Ron Smiley (and he was, very) got jealous, I suppose, and he also wanted a hug. I was done and about to leave the studio floor when he asked me if I could stay till he was on air. He announced to Pittsburgh that we were having an unseasonably warm spell, and that, tragically, there wouldn’t be any snow this year for Christmas. For all those who were sad about it he offered this…me! I came up, hugged him for ages, then walked off camera without saying a word. It was truly surreal, and pretty wonderful. They ended the show by all hugging each other on camera… Only in America. Brilliant. If you look online they have the interview hug but not the other truly nuts ones.
The second tale is of two acts of unnecessary kindness; the best kind, I think. I had been for an early morning run along the local Allegheny River…and got lost on the way back trying to find the hotel! I was way to proud to stop and ask directions, ok? I’m a bloke, after all. And in this case a pretty sweaty, black bloke with a weird accent. Didn’t feel up to the challenge, so… I was too late for breakfast by the time I got back and asked room service for what I described as probably impossible: Porridge. (amer. trans: Oatmeal.) “No, sir,” said the very perky Chelsea down the line, “I’ll get that to you right away.” So far so American-commercial-speak. But to my utter surprise, when it arrived, Chelsea had designed a card, drawing three shooting stars in gold on it, and the words NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. I was so blessed and charmed. But more was to come. Chelsea’s colleague, Marissa, had heard about my oatmeal joy, and decided to ‘top’ her by giving me the full works. So when I ordered some soup last night before the show it came with a free bottle of sparkling martini, and a selection of little cakes. And a note wishing me all the best for SANCHO! No wonder so many British actors are ‘emigrating’ here. We’ll all, no doubt, get impossibly spoilt in the process. Premier Inns take note?
Finally, to quote Sancho, “the joy to top all joys…” An article appeared this morning in the New York times. It was written by their London correspondent, ironically, and Roslyn Sulcas has written such a great, clear and flattering feature article that I suspect it will be better than any review I’ll get when we actually hit BAM next week! What a trip!